Has anything changed in the way the TCS community publishes papers? Comparing recent STOC 2012 and FOCS 2012 to their counterparts STOC 2003 and FOCS 2004 one thing that has changed is that today we do not allow submitting printed copies by mail anymore. All submissions are done electronically.
But a much more radical change is happening in the last few years. More and more researchers actively prefer to have their publications posted on-line in a manner that allows free access to everyone. This change is reflected in the following sentences found in these recent CPFs:
“Authors are encouraged to post full versions of their submissions in a freely accessible on-line repository…”
“We expect that authors of accepted papers will make full versions of their papers, with proofs, available by the camera-ready deadline”
This is a bold step toward a world where academic publications will be freely available to everyone. There are several simple ways we can reach this vision together. First we should all encourage and expect from ourselves, our co-authors and our colleagues to follow these guidelines. Second, we should try to convince all major TCS conferences to adopt similar policies.
Why not go a step further? The next stage after encouraging and expecting is having some mechanism to enforce it. Our suggestion is simple: if the authors of an accepted paper fail to post an on-line version then the PC chair can post on-line the version that was submitted for review. Here is an example of potential CFP text:
“Authors should post full versions, with proofs, of their submissions in a freely accessible on-line repository…”
“Accepted papers that do not have on-line full versions by the time the conference ends will have their submitted version posted on-line by the PC chair.”
Note that we suggest extending the on-line posting deadline until after the conference ends, that is after the talk is given and the proceedings with the 10 pages “conference version” is printed (into paper/USB flash key/Internet). This may solve some patent timing issues and also allows authors the option to keep the community temporarily in suspense and provide incentives for physically attending the conference.
A quick check of FOCS 2011 accepted papers (starting with the list compiled by Shiva Kintali) shows that less than 10% of the papers do not have an on-line version today. So we expect that enforcement by the PC chair will be minimal (probably zero).
Should we as a community take such a step? What could the next steps be?
Ittai Abraham, Alex Andoni, and Kunal Talwar